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EZ Ways to Boost School Success by Dr. Michele Borba
August 29, 2012

Posted from blog: February 8th, 2011 by Michele Borba

Academic success impacts our children for the rest of their lives.

Despite our good intentions we often overlook a few simple strategies that research has proven to boost children’s academic success. 

7 surprising solutions for every parent’s toolbox:

1. Make sure your kids are getting enough zzz’s

A lack of sleep can have a serious impact on children’s abilities to learn and perform at school.

In fact, in one recent study, Tel Aviv University researchers found that missing just one hour of sleep can be enough to reduce a child’s cognitive abilities by almost two years the next day. For example, a sixth grader who loses precious zzz’s the night before a big test could end up performing at a fourth grade level.

Here are some hints to help your child get enough sleep:

  • Set a bedtime and keep to it every single night.
  • Turn off the computer and television at least thirty minutes prior to bedtime.
  • Watch out for caffeinated sleep stealers like cold medications, chocolate, and those energy-drinks.
  • Take away the cell phones during nighttime hours-62% of kids admit they use it after the lights go out and their parents are clueless.

2. Applaud efforts the right way

Carol Dweck’s research at Columbia University found that how we praise our kids’ schoolwork can enhance or impede achievement. For example, instead of encouraging your child to bring home straight A’s, put the emphasis on how hard she is working. This will encourage her to persist and it will help to sustain her motivation. Above all, keep in mind that the grade is not what motivates a top student to succeed-it’s their inner drive for learning.

3. Respect their learning style

If your son insists on plugging into his iPod when he studies, or if your daughter swears that flash cards are the only way she can learn her spelling words-listen up! While you may prefer a quiet room with no distractions when it comes to getting work done, that doesn’t mean it’s the best way for your kids to concentrate and get down to business.

The trick is to pay attention to how your kid learns best so you can identify her unique learning style (not yours!) and then tap into it to help her be more successful. For instance, if your child learns best by remembering what she sees, point it out to her and encourage her to mindmap or draw those images.

4. Pay attention to their peers

Pals play an enormous part of our kids’ self-esteem, and research also reveals that who our kids befriend can affect their study habits and their overall academic success.

An Ohio State University study found that kids are more likely to have friends with future college plans if they have a warm, positive relationship with their parents. So cultivate that kind of parenting style and you’ll help your child make the right friendship decisions! And encourage your child to seek out pals with like-minded educational values.

5. Make family meals a must

A recent study by Columbia University showed that kids whose families eat regular, relaxed meals together are not only less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol and develop eating disorders-they are also more likely to achieve higher grades.

Family dinners do not have to consist of gourmet, five-course meals. Serve simple, healthy meals, turn off the television and unplug the phone, and enjoy each other’s company. And if everyone in your family is on a different schedule and can’t make it to dinner- don’t worry! Consider instating an evening family snack time where everyone can review their days with each other before bedtime.

The trick is to find what works best for you family and turn it into a routine. Keep in mind it’s not the macaroni and cheese dish that is giving your kid the academic edge. It’s those informal: “How was your day?” “What are you discussing in science?” “How do you plan to study for that test?” kind of discussion topics that let your kid know in your family education is a priority.

6. Squelch the stress…at home

Research shows that the conflict kids face at home spills over into their school life and impedes their learning. In fact, family-induced stress can affect kids’ learning and behavior for up to two days following an incident. So take a vow of ‘yellibacy.’ Make your home a stress-free zone.

Find ways to de-stress with your kids. Take longs walks, read together, do yoga, or have a family movie night. Be a model to them on how to disagree without it ending in a screaming match. Teach your kids that it’s okay for them to walk away from an argument until they are calm enough to return. Teach your child healthy ways to reduce stress. Tune into your child’s unique stress signs, so you’ll be able to recognize when she’s on overload, help her learn to identify her own stressors (and triggers) so that you can intervene and help her to decompress before something comes to blows.

7. Tailor expectations to your child’s abilities

All parents want the very best for their kids. It’s only natural!

As a parent, you should consider your learning aspirations for your child like a rubber band: gently stretch but don’t snap.

Every child is different, and while its okay to encourage her to try hard and achieve her best, it’s also important to remember that ‘What’s best’ is different for every child. Just because your kid isn’t composing his own symphonies or writing his memoirs by age 10, doesn’t mean that she won’t still do great things with her life. Always remember this one commandment: ‘Tailor thy parenting only to thy child’. You and your children will be happier and healthier for it, as well as succeed.

Final thoughts:

If you want to boost your kid’s academic performance and see lasting results, it will take a few things from you: consistency, dedication, and patience. Form a partnership with your child’s teacher..the more you’re on the same page the better for your child. When your child continues to struggle..get help!


Dr. Michele Borba, Parenting Expert

I am an educational psychologist, parenting expert, TODAY show contributor and author of 22 books including The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries.

You can also refer to my daily blog, Dr. Borba’s Reality Check for ongoing parenting solutions and late-breaking news and research about child development.

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